The Crypt Artist

The Crypt Artist by Deborah O'Toole was released by Club Lighthouse Publishing in June 2020.


A near-starving artist finds himself inspired by a group of long-dead classic painters in a rundown loft in SoHo, New York.

Frequent visits from the ghost of Malachy O'Leary - a quirky Irish poet from the far distant past - convince Luca he is on the verge of losing his mind. He hears strange music and sees lights coming from the vacant apartment Malachy used to occupy while he was alive, and soon discovers Malachy is not alone: he is often accompanied by a perpetually hissing cat, and shares his old apartment with a selection of famous artists from long ago. Luca is the only one who can see the phantom visions and hear the ghostly talk, further convincing him he is slipping into a well of insanity from which there is no return.

From Chapter One

SoHo, New York

Present Day (2016) 


LUCA WOLFE HURRIED ALONG THE sidewalk on Broome Street, a paper bag resting in the crook of his arm and a burning cigarette dangling from his free hand. He kept his head low, not in the mood for social interaction with his neighbors, or anyone else for that matter. He just wanted to reach the relative peace and safety of his loft, and to be done with basic humanity for the day.

About a block before he reached home, Luca saw a man approaching on a bicycle from the direction of Lafayette Street. A wicker basket on the handlebars contained a lone cat, who stared straight ahead as the man pedaled along the sidewalk. Luca could hear the squeaking of the bike wheels from a distance, growing louder as the bike came closer.

Luca stepped aside to allow the man to pass by, one foot on the sidewalk and the other in the thankfully dry gutter, all the while silently cursing the encroachment of space. The man seemed not to notice anyone around him, more intent on tooling toward some unknown destination, seemingly without a care in the world.

As the man drew closer, it was Luca's intention to disregard him until he passed by. However, he could not help but notice the man's antiquated mode of transport, his style of dress, and there was a definite double-take on his physical appearance. His red and cream Huffy Deluxe bicycle seemed from another era, maybe the 1950s, as did his bowler hat, and black wool suit with white shirt and colorful green bow tie. He seemed older and slightly built, with bright strawberry blond hair and a pale complexion, also carrying a look of blissful determination on his face. Human oddities were commonplace in New York City, but the older man somehow stood out from the rest in Luca's mind.

As the older man passed directly by Luca, the cat in the wicker basket turned its head and stared directly at Luca, its mouth formed into a hiss. He was startled by the feline's hazel-green eyes, which seemed to bore holes into him, but he was quickly distracted by the man speaking aloud.

As he tipped his bowler hat in Luca's direction while keeping his gaze straight ahead, his Irish sing-song voice came loud and clear: "Very well, thank you." Four words, one simple sentence, but said to no one in particular.

Luca stopped in his tracks, turning around to watch as the man and the cat kept going along the sidewalk on the bicycle, soon disappearing from view toward Crosby Street. Shaking his head, Luca continued walking in the other direction. "Living in SoHo was nothing if not oddly entertaining at times," he thought with a wry grin curling his lips.

He then groaned inwardly as he approached the stoop to the Ramsey Building. A large van was parked in front of the structure, with several beefy young men hauling boxes and furniture up the stairs and inside. Someone else was obviously moving into the building today, yet another neighbor Luca would have to unwillingly contend with eventually. Grinding his cigarette to the pavement with his worn loafer-encased foot, Luca took the stoop into the building, two steps at a time, barely avoiding the beefy male exodus to fetch more boxes in the van.

With a sigh of relief, Luca climbed into the old Otis elevator for his trip to the second floor. When he alighted to the hallway, he could detect the familiar moldy odor of the warped wooden floor and less than pristine concrete and brick walls. A recent rainstorm had increased the aroma of decay, but he was accustomed to it by now. The hallway was rather dim, yet he knew he could find his way to the door of his loft apartment in complete darkness. Having lived in the Ramsey Building for the past five years, nothing was a mystery about the place anymore. Misery begat misery on a daily basis.


THE CRYPT ARTIST ©Deborah O'Toole. All rights reserved.

"The Crypt Artist" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "The Crypt Artist" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.